Consumer-Retailer Identification Enhancing Consumer Well-Being

Consumer-Retailer Identification Enhancing Consumer Well-Being

Isabella Maggioni (ESCP Europe, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1412-2.ch001


Consumer-Retailer Identification (CRI) is a powerful tool for retailers to develop meaningful relationships and strengthen the emotional bond with their customers. Besides showing positive attitudes towards brands that reflect their self-concept, consumers prefer to engage with retailers that are more likely to express and enhance their identity. This alignment between a retailer's image and one's identity has been shown to positively affect consumers' sense of well-being and their overall quality of life. This chapter proposes a framework based on a review of past research on the role of consumer's self-concept in the promotion of consumer well-being in retail settings. Focusing on CRI, the chapter offers directions for future research while discussing emerging trends.
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Quoting Belk (1988), “we are what we have…our possessions are a major contributor to and reflection of our identities” (p. 139). Besides providing functional benefits, brands enable experiential opportunities through their use (Holbrook, & Hirschmann, 1982; Arnould & Price, 1993). Through brands individuals can show something personal about them to others, but they can also answer to their inner desire to define themselves and to communicate who they are to the society (Shembri, Merrilees, & Kristiansen, 2010). Consumers have a natural affinity for brands that match at best their self- and social-identities and they are steadily involved in a matching process, aimed at identifying which brands are more consistent with their self-concept (Sirgy et al., 1997; Sirgy et al., 2000; Reed et al., 2012; Chattaraman, Lennon, & Rudd, 2010). In particular, brands act twofold, expressing who a person is and revealing what groups a person belongs to and aligns with (Shembri, Merrilees, & Kristiansen, 2010). In this sense, brands play a key role in the communication of individuals’ self-image (Belk, 1988; Arnould, & Thompson, 2005; Chattaraman, Lennon, & Rudd, 2010). This customer-retailer identification process has been recognised to have a positive impact on both pre-purchase and post-purchase evaluations and behaviours and on the effective creation and management of relationships with brands (Tuskej et al., 2013). It is argued that the identification of a customer with a retailer crucially impacts on a retailer’s success.

Among these outcomes, an emerging stream of research is exploring the impact of consumer-retailer identification on consumer well-being (Sirgy & Lee, 2008; El Hedhli et al., 2013; El Hedhli et al., 2016; Ekici et al., 2017; Maggioni & Sands, 2018). Attributing more value to wellness and personal enhancement than to material objects, consumers are increasingly looking for meaningful experiences and are more concerned about how they invest their money to improve their lives. As consumers search for experiences that are consistent with their self-identities, it is important to further investigate the role of CRI in boosting customer experiences and enhancing the sense of consumer well-being, improving their overall quality of life.

This chapter aims at reviewing previous research on the role of consumer’s self-concept in the development of brand-customer relationships, extending the consumer-brand identification theory to retail settings. Specifically, the chapter proposes CRI as a virtuous mechanism through which amplifying the positive effect of a successful customer experience on consumer well-being. This chapter also provides some insights for future research on CRI and well-being in retail settings by critically exploring the role of self-congruity and of customer-retailer identification in the development and management of retailer-customer relationships.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Memorable Customer Experience: The ability of a brand to deliver vivid and remarkable experiences originating from extraordinary consumption activities, regardless the frequency of use.

Retailer Distinctiveness: The ability of a brand of being recognized as unique and different from other brands, in order to address consumers’ need for uniqueness at both individual and social levels.

Consumer Well-Being: The level of contribution that the shopping activity has to satisfaction with important life subdomains, such as consumer life, social life, leisure life, and community life, which results in an improvement of one’s overall quality of life.

Retailer Social Benefits: A series of benefits provided by a retailer linked to its capability to carry social and cultural meanings and to provide social interaction opportunities to consumers.

Retailer Personality: A mental representation of a retailer (store) based on human traits, such as friendly, annoying, enthusiastic, irritating, or honest.

Retailer Brand Warmth: The degree to which a retail brand is able to arouse emotions and empathy in consumers, as being perceived as warm instead of cold.

Retailer User Imagery/Patrons’ Image: The stereotypic images of users of a product or of patrons of a store. Not always the image of the typical user/patron of a brand/store is reflective of the image of the brand/store, as well as there can be more than one type of user/patron for the same brand/store.

Consumer – Retailer Identification: A psychological state in shoppers’ mind, who feel a sense of belongingness with a retailer and/or with a specific store. This process may occur at store, at retailer, or at both levels, and may involve both retailer (store) personality and retailer (store) user imagery.

Retailer Prestige: The level of exclusivity of a retailer that enables consumers to satisfy self-enhancement needs.

Self – Congruity: The degree of similarity between a brand/store image and a customer’s self-image.

Consumer – Brand Identification: A psychological state in consumer’s mind of perceiving, feeling and valuing the belongingness with a brand.

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